Pull Ups: A Complete Guide for How to Build Up Strength, Benefits, Variations and More

Otherwise known as the anyone can do a pull-up guide. Pull-ups are something we are designed to do, climbing, swinging, and hanging, but don’t worry if you cannot do one yet!

person doing pull-ups
Anyone can do a pull up – source

The human body is made to move, and with all things in order, we should want to move.

A lot of people can’t. Even body builders would struggle if they were not taught how to build up the strength required for this bodyweight exercise.

Here is a complete guide on how to do a pull-up for beginners, showing you exercises to build up strength and movement!

What is a Pull-Up or Chin Up

Pull-ups, also called chin-ups depending on the grip, are a bodyweight strength workout that can be great for exercising large muscle groups. 

You hang by the hands with the palms facing away your body from a horizontal bar and pull yourself up until the chin is level with the bar.

Just like a push-up, you can build up to doing a pull-up.

Benefits of a Pull-Up

The benefits of a pull-up come from the muscles it works out. It can strengthen the back muscles greatly, improving posture and reducing back pain.

Pull-ups also strengthen the arms and shoulders, which is great for the general range of motion and everyday activity.

Hanging from a horizontal bar improves grip strength which can improve a variety of other activities like golf, bowling, or even opening jars.

Working out can help increase mental wellbeing as physical exercise can boost endorphins and dopamine. Workouts don’t have to take hours a day too, as a quick 20 minutes have the same benefits.

Pull-ups are also great for mental motivation as working up to doing one demonstrates perseverance and dedication. Anyone can do one, but not everyone will train to do one.

How to Build Up Strength for Pull-Ups

We will build up to a pull-up using progressively harder variations until we reach a full pull-up! Try not to skip the easy variations as these are great for building muscle memory to learn the correct form.

1. Start on the Wall

Wall pull-ups are just like they sound. Start with a door frame, reach your arms to grip the sides, and pull your body towards the area.

You want to do 3 sets of 40 reps. Focus on the muscles needed to do a pull-up, the back, the arms, and the core.

2. Go Horizontal

Find something chest height you can pull on. Plant your legs in front of you and begin the pull-up motion.

Try for 3 sets of 35. If you do not have the equipment, simply try to find two sturdy surfaces at chest height and place a bar between them.

3. Go Lower

Now you can move to something hip height. Again, if you do not have the equipment, find two sturdy surfaces, such as a chair at hip height, and place a bar between them.

Do 3 sets of 30. Make sure you can complete these sets before moving on to the next variation.

4. Jackknife Form

In this form, find somewhere you can sit and reach the hands directly up to grip a horizontal bar. Pull your body up then lower down. This is a jack-knife form.

Do 3 sets of 25. You can make these harder by raising one leg off the ground.

5. Try for a Pull-Up

At this point, you can try for a full pull-up, but don’t worry if you are still not there yet. Look at variations to assist you, like half pull-ups to strengthen further.

We want to try for at least 3 clean pull-ups! After getting to this point, you can even try doing a one-handed variation, or trying a different grip.

Types of Pull-Ups

Here are some different variations of pull-ups you can try today. Mostly what changes are the direction the palms are facing or the distance of the palms.

Neutral Grip Pull-Ups

In a neutral grip pull up, the palms face each other, like in a hammer curl. The rest of the motion is the same as a pull-up.


A chin-up is very similar to a pull-up, except the palms face towards the body. Again, just raise the body up and down. In theory, chin-ups work the biceps more whereas pull-ups work the traps.

Wide Grip Pull-Ups

Assume a pull-up position with your palms facing away from you. Widen your grip past shoulder length. This works out your shoulder and back more.

Negative Pull-Ups

Negative pull-ups are a smaller range of motion, only moving from the halfway point down and then back up to chin level.

This is a popular variation for strength building and can be helpful if you cannot do a complete pull-up yet.

Quick Tips

Here are some quick tips for pull-ups!

Start by Hanging

If you need more grip strength, start by simply hanging from a horizontal bar. This will even strengthen the muscles of the shoulders.

Assist with Machine or Band

Look for a pull-up assist machine that allows you to lower the bodyweight you need to pull up! No gym? No problem! Get yourself a bodyweight band to decrease strain.

Continue Practicing Easier Variations 

Even though you can do a pull-up, try to always go back to easier variations to maintain good form and muscle memory!

Try Harder Variations 

So you can do a pull-up, now what? Make it harder! Building up to one-handed pull-ups or try adding weight to make it even more challenging! 

The Takeaway

Anyone can do a pull-up! It may just take time and easier variations to get there.

Pullups are a great exercise for the entire body as they work out large muscle groups.

Build up with easier variations and then move on to harder variations, change your grip, and even try one-handed pull-ups.

Fitness is a journey and all about progress, not perfection. Try this workout to feel good mentally and physically. 

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